In front of a packed house Ashford returned to winning ways with a comprehensive victory and assured performance against Sittingbourne. The club lunch was well attended and the 80 plus vice presidents were treated to a performance which although not fluent throughout showed glimpses of real promise.
The home side handed 1st XV debuts to Scott Booth and Tom Stokes, both players gave positive accounts of themselves, doing their jobs which was very much the reminder from captain Peter Walsh prior to the game.
Ashford started well with Danny Leech winning a penalty in the opening exchanges with some excellent breakdown work, Leech went on to lead the pack with distinction, playing his best game of the season so far. Ashford worked hard to get into the away side’s 22 but a nervy lineout and poor set piece execution meant Sittingbourne were let off the hook more than once in the first 15 minutes. Approaching a quarter of the way in, Jack Weaver collected a poor clearance, saw the space and opposition forwards in front of him and scythed through to score a great individual try. More pressure followed from Ashford, and Charlie Colman who put in a performance full of invention and composure saw the space out wide and floated a long pass over 2 defenders into the arms of Steve Tanner who scored to make the score 10 – 0. Sittingbourne fought back and took 3 points from a penalty before Weaver again got space, drew the last man before slotting through a well-judged kick for Tanner to race through and just about touch down, Tanner converted, 17 – 3 half time.
Head Coach Dengate had a few small areas of focus at half time, but despite the positive intentions after half time it took 25 minutes of the second half before Ashford scored again. Some strong carries from Peter Walsh and Jake Fletcher were opening up holes in the defence but on more than one occasion the final pass went awry. Dan Brown, Tom Kane and Aaron Bishop all came off the bench and seemed to add another level of energy to the home side, Colman eventually took matters into his own hands and rather than pass picked a smart line to crash through to score which Tanner again converted.
Ben Gray, who worked hard throughout was repaid for his endeavour and commitment with a well-earned try, which was again converted before Tanner volleyed the ball on the half way line, showed excellent pace to race away, controlled the ball well and went over again to score his hat trick and with the subsequent conversion complete a personal haul of 23 points.
This was a solid step in the right direction and with 11 players currently injured or absent it showed the strength in depth at the club right now. There will be tougher challenges ahead but for now this was a promising team performance where every player gave a positive account of themselves, which was certainly pleasing to see.
Ashford are away to New Ash Green next week in the league with kick off at 3pm